Web helps Father, Daughter Reunite After 27 Years

Dirk Pratt thought his daughter died years ago; they were reunited this week.

ByABC News
April 16, 2009, 2:31 PM

SEATTLE, April 16, 2009— -- For nearly 30 years, Dirk Pratt thought his daughter was dead.

The 2-year-old went with her mother on a trip to Ecuador 27 years ago. Pratt, of Seattle, says he was told by his mother-in-law that the little girl, Francesca, died while she was there after she was bitten by a mosquito.

Distraught, Pratt said he spent the next three years working with the consulate in Ecuador, trying to find her body, with no success.

Over the years, Pratt says, he became bitter and withdrawn, angry at Francesca's mother and at himself for letting his daughter leave the country. "I blamed myself, I blamed her and I blamed God," he says.

He spent Francesca's birthday every year looking at her photo. He wrote her letters and burned them, he says, so the smoke would rise to heaven and she could read them.

Then, earlier this year, out of idle curiosity, Pratt searched for his name on Google.com. What he found, he said, left him in shock.

"This message is for Dirk M. Pratt, I'm looking to make contact with him," read a note posted in November 2007 on an Internet message board. "I'm his daughter."

Thousands of miles away in Ecuador, Francesca Pratt grew up thinking her father died in a diving accident. But something tugged at her, a vague feeling in her heart, she said, that he was alive.

Francesca began to search for him, eventually moving to the United States. "I needed to know about him," Francesca, 30, said in a tearful interview with ABC News. "I need to know if I have a family."

After seeing his daughter's online post, Dirk Pratt responded on the same message board. When he didn't hear back, he sent a letter to a newspaper in Quito, looking for her. The letter said he loved his daughter and not a day had passed when he didn't think of her.

Dozens of people responded to Pratt with leads; some of them said they knew his daughter's family.

"When I first realized she was alive, I had a mission," he said. "My feeling was I was going to do whatever it took to find my daughter. And that was my mission and that's all I could think of. It's I'm going to find my daughter and nothing's going to stop me from finding my daughter."

"I was overwhelmed by this feeling of seeing my baby," he said.

The pair reunited this week for the first time in 27 years. Pratt met his daughter, now 30 and pregnant with her own child, at the Seattle airport.

"You go through a thousand feelings all at once," Pratt said. "They hit you all at once -- happiness, joy, fear."